I Saw It First free hand sanitizer campaign

Should’ve Seen It Coming: I Saw It First’s Coronavirus Crisis

One thing I’ll say before sitting down to write this blog post is that we’re all in chartered water. It’s not up for debate – the world has never seen anything like this before, and thus we’re all navigating this new way of life.

That includes us PRs and marketers.

So, while what I’m about to talk about was an incredible oversight, I also just want to make it clear that it’s absolutely understandable that brands are going to make mistakes amidst this crisis.

We all still have to make money somehow.

This hasn’t been the first slip-up from a brand that we’ve seen in the wake of the Coronavirus outbreak, and I’m confident it won’t be the last either before this all comes to pass.

Nevertheless, earlier today popular online retailer ‘I Saw It First’ launched a pretty questionable campaign (to say the very least) and I couldn’t not write about it.

Major Oversight: Brought To You By I Saw It First

First brought to my attention by Sarah-Jayne, latterly by the general Twitter population, I Saw It First kicked off a new marketing campaign earlier today.

It was this:

The first 1000 customers will recieve a free hand sanitiser with their order

There are many fundamental things wrong with this, to name a few:

  1. There are charities, health centers, even hospitals with shortages of hand sanitiser that need them, is it fair that a clothing brand gives them away as part of a campaign when so many greater causes are in need?
  2. Incentivizing unnecessary purchasing with an item many deem necessary to them is far from humanitarian, which is the approach you should be taking with your marketing right now.
  3. Profiting directly from the Coronavirus outbreak is deemed distasteful by many, and if you value your brand’s reputation, you probably shouldn’t be doing this.
  4. It’s not government-approved, only today in his daily briefing Boris Johnson said he condemns any businesses trying to make a profit from this, and is looking into measures to prevent it. Though poorly disguised as empathy for their customers, it’s clear that I Saw It First has just tried to exploit their consumers, and I bet after hearing the latest press conference they’ll have their tails between their legs.

All in all, it seems a cheap shot at marketing and a plan that was probably devised to produce a quick intake of sales. I wouldn’t endorse either of these things, given the current climate.

Furthermore, there are so many ways that you can still craft a marketing campaign during this pandemic, Misguided demonstrated this perfectly with a quick ‘working from home range’ launch. It’s not controversial, it doesn’t harm anybody and as well as this – it’s where consumer demand is right now.

Unapologetically trying to sell your usual products but incentivizing them with a medicinal product however, seems to just insult your consumers and also leaves your brand’s Corporate Social Responsibility in the balance.

Not to mention, it’s totally off brand.

Amplifying The Situation

To add insult to injury, the debacle didn’t end there for I Saw It First.

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The very last thing you want to do in a PR crisis, is amplify the situation.

Call it bad timing, or an attempt to mask the backlash, I Saw It First posted a competition earlier where they asked those who wanted to enter to use the hashtag #ISawItFirst.

Unsurprisingly, in line with when the ‘free hand sanitiser’ campaign was pushed out, this hashtag has since been inundated with people voicing their (not-so-nice) opinions. It’s one thing to receive negative social media coverage, but to then give people the opportunity to augment their concerns further with a hashtag – it’s a recipe for disaster.

#ISawItFirst is currently one of Twitter’s top trending hashtags.

Can They Come Back From This?

There’s no doubt in my mind that I Saw It First will be able to come back from this, though a big mistake on their part – they’ve not necessarily harmed anybody. A period of Twitter hate seems to be the biggest repercussion they’ll endure from their recent blunder.

Something like this wouldn’t really do any longstanding harm to your brand (quite unlike what we’re seeing with the likes of Wetherspoons and Sports Direct at the moment following their abhorrent treatment of their employees).

There’s definitely scope for an apology though, and I think the right thing to do now – from a reputation management perspective – would be for. them to hold their hands up high and admit they made an error.

Moreover, how amazing would it be if they could actually donate the hand sansisters they’ve got in stock to the vulnerable? Either a charity or a health organisation, I feel that this would be such a worthy apology that would get I Saw It First’s brand reputation right back on track. (Because at the moment, brand reputation and CSR is the most powerful thing we have)

Maybe they’ll consider it? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

As always, please leave me your thoughts in the comments below, or send me a tweet (you know I love a good Twitter debate).

Stay safe!

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